To Kill a Mockingbird Quotations

"First of all... if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view [...] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." (Chapter 3)

    This quotation, appearing in an early chapter, establishes a major idea in the novel. Here, Atticus encourages Scout to try and see things from another person's perspective by "walking in their shoes." Basically, he means that before you judge some one, you really have to think about where they're coming from. This is a lesson that Scout struggles to learn throughout the novel.

"This time we aren't fighting the Yankees, we're fighting our friends. But remember this, no matter how bitter things get, they're still our friends and this is still our home." (Chapter 9)

    Atticus says this to Scout when he talks about the trial. He warns the children that things may get bitter; after all, everyone in town has very distinct opinions about the trial, one way or the other. However, Atticus cautions his children against bitterness. Even though the town may be rife with divisive opinions, they ultimately have to remember that these are their friends and neighbors. At the end of the day, Atticus wants his children to know that, despite everything, their community will still remain intact.

"'Remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'" That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. (Chapter 10)

    Atticus says this to Scout soon after Uncle Jack gives them air rifles for Christmas. On a literal level, Atticus cautions the children never to shoot at mockingbirds because they are harmless and innocent. This is important, not only because this is where the title of the novel comes from, but also because it resonates on a symbolic level throughout the novel. A mockingbird essentially stands for anyone who is an innocent person who becomes a victim of a more sinister reality. There are many "mockingbirds" in the novel, especially Boo Radley. However, Scout herself might be considered a "mockingbird," as well as Tom Robinson and even Mayella Ewell.

"Your father's right...Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." (Chapter 10)

    Miss Maudie says this to Scout, confirming what Atticus said about mockingbirds. Her agreement with him seems to suggest that Atticus isn't the only good person in town. Miss Maudie sees things as Atticus sees them, and she will prove a critic of the trial later on. Maycomb may be full of hypocrites, but there are a few people who recognize injustice when they see it.

"Somewhere, I had received the impression that Fine Folks were people who did the best they could with the sense they had, but Aunt Alexandra was of the opinion, obliquely expressed, that the longer a family had been squatting on one patch of land the finer it was. (Chapter 13)

    Scout makes this comment in a narrative moment. Her view that people who do the best they can with what they have is clearly something she has gleaned from Atticus' views. However, Aunt Alexandra's view in this represents more of the proud views of the town and the South in general. People with a legacy of establishment-of land ownership and reputation-are what make someone a "fine" person in her mind. This is an idea that Scout, having been raised by Atticus, clearly does not align herself with.

"Dill's eyes flickered at Jem, and Jem looked at the floor. Then he rose and broke the remaining code of our childhood. He went out of the room and down the hall. 'Atticus,' his voice was distant, 'can you come here a minute, sir?'" (Chapter 14)

    With this section, Jem makes a final move away from the fantasies and carefree days of childhood. Here, when Dill has run away from home and they find him in Scout's room, Jem goes to tell Atticus. This is the move of a responsible young adult, not of an carefree child. Scout recognizes this, as she says, in doing this, Jem "breaks the code of their childhood." Scout, meanwhile, is still caught up her own much less "grown-up" world.

"You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women-black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire." (Chapter 20)

    Atticus makes these remarks in his closing arguments during the trial. He argues, very logically, that not all black men are bad and, therefore, Tom Robinson should not be judged guilty. Atticus's logic is that no one race is more evil than the other and that, instead, humans in general have the capacity for both good and evil. Here again, Atticus proves to be a moral and logical voice when so many in Maycomb cannot even begin to see past skin color.

"I was more at home in my father's world. People like Mr. Heck Tate did not trap you with innocent questions to make fun of you; even Jem was not highly critical unless you said something stupid. Ladies seemed to live in faint horror of men, seemed unwilling to approve wholeheartedly of them. But I liked them. There was something about them, no matter how much they cussed and drank and gambled and chewed; no matter how undelectable they were, there was something about them that I instinctively liked... they weren't-

'Hypocrites, Mrs. Perkins, born hypocrites,' Mrs. Merriweather was saying." (Chapter 24)

    This quotation is a key example of Scout's search for where she fits in. Several times throughout the novel, Jem and Aunt Alexandra criticize her for not being very "lady-like." However, Scout rebels against this idea, as evidenced in this quote. The world of women simply doesn't make sense to her, though the world of men simply does. Scout is unable to see past the hypocrisy of women, particularly the middle and upper class Southern women who surround her. This quotation also resonates with the idea that people do not have to be compartmentalized. Just as Tom Robinson should not be considered a bad man simply because he is black, Scout should not be expected to be the ideal southern belle simple because society expects it of her.

"How could this be so, I wondered, as I read Mr. Underwood's editorial. Senseless killing-Tom had been given due process of law to the day of his death; he had been tried openly and convicted by twelve good men and true; my father had fought for him all the way. Then Mr. Underwood's meaning became clear: Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men's hearts Atticus had no case. Tom was a dead man the minute Mayella Ewell opened her mouth and screamed." (Chapter 25)

    Here, Scout reads Mr. Underwood's scathing article about the trial. The unfairness of the trial hits her full force here as she realizes that the justice system failed. She knows that her father defended Tom to the best of his ability but, she realizes also, that Tom Robinson never had a chance to be proven innocent. The outcome of the trial was determined the second a white woman brought charges against him. Scout fully realizes just how unfair this is.

"I'm not a very good man, sir, but I am sheriff of Maycomb County. Lived in this town all my life an' I'm goin' on forty-three years old. Know everything that's happened here since before I was born. There's a black boy dead for no reason, and the man responsible for it's dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time, Mr. Finch. Let the dead bury the dead." (Chapter 30)

    Heck Tate says this to Atticus after Bob Ewell is found dead. Atticus wants Heck to file a formal report, especially because he worries Jem maybe involved. However, Heck Tate seems to realize something that Atticus doesn't here: this is simply a matter beyond the law. Ewell, a low and pretty terrible man, is responsible for the death of an innocent black man and, on top of that, he tried to harm innocent children. Tate sees a sort of justice on Ewell's death, so he is willing to let it go. Where a court of law failed, chance-and maybe even fate-prevailed. This seems to suggest that, perhaps, there is justice in the world after all that has happened.

Related Links:

To Kill a Mockingbird Chapters 28-31 Summary
To Kill a Mockingbird Chapters 1-3 Summary
To Kill a Mockingbird Chapters 4-7 Summary
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